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After the quake, safety and a sense of security for Sichuan schoolchildren

© UNICEF/HQ08-0573/Dean
Students study for their university entrance exams at Sichuan University in Chengdu, the provincial capital. They have been orphaned or separated from their families by the earthquake and are living temporarily at the school.

NEW YORK, USA, 6 June 2008 – UNICEF has concluded its second assessment mission through China’s quake-damaged Sichuan province, organized to identify the most pressing needs for the millions of children whose schooling was disrupted by last month’s earthquake.

The most recent data indicate that nearly 7,000 schools were completely destroyed. Another 3,000 were damaged during the quake. Most of the students in the province are now attending class in temporary structures. Some of them have been relocated from their rural homes to do so.

Visits to communities
During the trip, UNICEF Deputy Director in China David McLoughlin met with the Deputy Director-General of the Sichuan Education Commission, He Shaoyong. Mr. McLoughlin also visited a number of quake-affected communities, including:

• Tongji, where UNICEF sponsors a long-distance learning school
• Xinxing, where more than 1,000 children are being taught in temporary facilities
• Juyuan, where 2,200 primary school students and teachers survived, but more than 900 high school students were killed when their school collapsed.

“We’re here on an education mission to look at what … can the government do, what resources have they been able to mobilize?” said Mr. McLoughlin. “What are the gaps and how can UNICEF, with their experience, contribute to that?”

© UNICEF China/2008/Dean
Children left homeless by the 12 May earthquake study in a temporary tented classroom in Mianyang, China.

Urgent needs identified
UNICEF and the Chinese Government have identified the need for more learning materials, temporary structures and shelters, and toilets and safe-water facilities. Additional resources should be applied towards school emergency preparedness and the training of teachers and school professionals to deal with the stress of child survivors of the disaster.

In Sichuan, at least 400 orphans and some 1,000 children still separated from their families are being housed in schools and at Sichuan University in Chengdu. An unknown number of children are still out of school, though the government has made resumption of education a top priority and authorized many schools to operate on double shifts to accommodate more children.

“We are glad to see that the government has put a priority on getting children back to school,” said UNICEF Representative in China and UN Disaster Management Team chair Dr. Yin Yin Nwe. “This will be a great help in getting them back to a sense of normalcy.”




5 June 2008: UNICEF correspondent Elizabeth Kiem reports on the findings of the second UNICEF assessment mission in earthquake-affected Sichuan province, China.
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